Interest has grown in recent months of people considering homeschooling their children in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Washington County Homeschool Facebook Group has received more than a dozen requests to join their page and people are asking questions.
"We decided instead of the admin answering all the questions we were getting in our group messages, let’s just open it up because everyone does it differently," Sarah Byrne said. "That’s why we came up with the open house tour idea."
Eight families are opening their homeschools for those who want to learn more. The tours — July 12, 19, 26 and Aug. 2 — will be open house style from 1-3 p.m. and give people the chance to come in and look at their classroom space, with a wide variety of programs and curriculums that people use.
Byrnes, who has been homeschooling for three years, said she is not surprised with the extra interest.
"I can’t imagine what it was like to be a public school parent when the school closed — you had to jump into a curriculum you didn’t choose, in the middle of the school year, with the all the unknowns," she said. "This is giving people an opportunity to say you don’t have to do that again if you don’t want to. You can pick your own program, go at your own pace and not be connected to the computer."
Byrnes said she doesn't want anyone to feel like they're trying to make enemies with the public school. "If you choose to homeschool you aren’t alone. The hardest part is getting started," she said. "You’re not alone, we are here to help you. We are just trying to be a resource."
Karen Wimpey homeschools her children ranging in age from 4 to 15 years old and will be one of the homes on the tour. She has heard from people that a combination of regulations for students returning with masks and social distancing as a reason they're looking into homeschooling.
Wimpey said she would be terrified to send her kids to school wearing masks, with emotional implications of that.
"It was hard for the parents who struggled with having to step in and be a teacher with a curriculum they weren't prepared to teach, keep kids on task, work and juggle it all," she said. "I call it pandemic schooling because it is very different from what we do at homeschool."
Wimpey knows there are misconceptions about homeschooling but said the majority of people are respectful when they discover she homeschools.
"I'm not a super human," she said. "It's a challenge and sacrifice I'm willing to make."
She wants people to go easy on themselves when homeschooling for the first time.
"The first year is always the learning part," Wimpey said. "Give yourself grace, if you are going to be doing homeschooling for multiple years."
Wimpey said it's a balancing act.
"We have a lot more flexibility," she said. "That's making sure all four of my kids are educated. I can focus on an individual child and I get to choose my curriculum for that particular child
to cater to their needs, but can hyper focus on their shortcomings and help them with it."
Heather Hall said she has several friends who considered homeschooling before and now this summer they're reaching out more to ask questions.
"It's more of a likelihood for them with COVID-19 and everything," she said. "The impression I've gotten is concern about the stipulations, and they don't love idea of kids being masked constantly."
Hall sees an irony in the situation.
"It's funny most people who expressed concerns with homeschools it is a socialization issue, now we're looking at the socialization issue going forward in public school,” she said.
She said homeschooling has changed radically in the last 5 to 10 years.
"I think public perception has changed a lot," Hall said. "Even before COVID-19 there was a movement to take responsibility for their child's education, but I do think current events are the impetus for more people considering it for their children."
Hall believes the open houses will help.
"It's nice to be able to share those things because I think it demystifies the entire thing for some people," she said. "They can actually come to someone's home, look at what books they use and talk with each homeschool mom about how we do things and why we do these things. Once you have all the information you can decide if it's in your realm of possibilities."